Friday, February 13, 2015

My experiences with the full time job interview tamasha

Most interviewers are clueless! 
Working as a freelancer offers a lot of flexibility to choose work and plan other things in my life. Though it doesn’t really rain money, it definitely is the ideal situation that helps achieve balance in life. However, one of the biggest downsides of being an independent professional for about 8 years is the intolerance of the full time job tamasha. I never went back to a full time job after I quit my last one in 2007, so it would be wrong to say that I am clued into the current state of office politics and gossip. But the few times that I have attempted to get back to a full time job till as recent as a couple of years ago, the interview tamasha has been enough to put me off the whole idea. 

Most organizations, and by that I mean people in power who run those organizations, think that their time is precious and the job seeker is a poor helpless person at their mercy. And  mostly the position applied for doesn't make much of a difference. (Unless maybe we are talking about CEO level positions) These people in power are supposed to uphold the culture of their organization and project it to people they interact with. So either most companies have a lousy culture or these very people, as we will see, do a great job of dragging it down. 

Even though I vividly remember my last full time interview, my post is a general impression of several of them over the years. The first thing that infuriates me is the tradition of making people wait! Every single time! This is the norm even at clients’ when I go meet them for freelance assignments. I agree that Indians are not exactly known for being punctual but most of the times no one cares how late they are. I completely understand getting caught in meetings resulting in delay by a quarter of an hour. But I have had people not turn up for upto an hour after the appointed time. Whether the employees are disrespectful and careless or the company culture condones this discourtesy is beyond my understanding. Asking someone to arrive at a particular time and then getting busy with something else at the same time is a direct indication of where the candidate comes in your priority list. 

The elaborate job application is totally redundant

As if this isn’t disgusting enough, another huge turn off is the endless form one is required to fill up as part of the process. Maybe that is just a ploy invented to fill up the futile wait hoping someone from the HR dept to turn up. This, despite the fact that the resume has already been sent twice or more to different people and the interviewer will definitely turn up, whenever he or she finally does, with a printed copy of it. I wouldn’t mind this if the form helps the interviewer with a quick recap of relevant information pertaining to the job, making it easier to navigate through the resume. Instead the form requires you to fill in elaborate details from your blood group, family members, their age and occupation to educational details of every class, decimal percentage of each, the board studied in, every job you were ever employed in with references, every worthy and unworthy achievement of your life, the passport number, the driving license number, health details and also space to justify your candidature. I am thinking it is totally unfair to leave out my pets’ names, favourite school teacher, my shoe size, the colour of my bra, my first boyfriend’s name and the fact that my neighbour’s uncle’s second cousin happens to live on the same street as the local MLA’s brother-in-law. In fact, completing that form is like a cathartic journey through my life which also probably reveals to me the unfortunate circumstances that landed me in this place.  

As I start to recover from huffing at the end of my form filling journey of life, I feel that my day is finally looking up with the HR person walking in my direction. And true enough, she is clutching the handful of sheets I just finished along with my resume. And just as I feel relieved that this will end soon and I will be able to gather whatever modicum of respect left and go home, the interviewer opens her mouth. And much to my chagrin, the first question, invariably is - why don’t you quickly run me through the highlights of your career? And I swear to God, this is exactly the point when, at the risk of being declared a lunatic, I want to scream like a banshee and tell her she has all the information about me - provided twice - in the documents she’s carried with herself. She just has to READ IT. Even if it to put to rest the souls of trees that were cut down to get her those god damn copies. But then I concede defeat and start the mechanical process of talking about myself since I don’t want to give up after having put in so much of time and effort. And superhuman levels of patience. 

The problem with our education system and then the corporate world is that we train and train people to appear in interviews and fool the interviewer in order to clear them. But there is very little training given to interviewers to save them from making a fool of themselves. Intelligent questions that make sense are usually hard to come by. I wouldn’t need fingers on both my hands to count the number of interviews where I was impressed by the interviewers or have been asked questions that made me think for a moment before I answer. There is a dearth of smart interviewers. Corporates forget that unless they are dealing with a novice straight out of college, they are being judged as much as they judge the candidate. “Let me tell you about what we do” - is my cue that the evaluation process is over and there are going to be no more questions. This could sometimes come after just 2 questions summing up the IQ level of the interviewer. 

In some cases, there might be more than one round. And somehow by the second round I have realised that the duration you are made to wait is directly proportional to the importance of the person in line to ask questions. It’s like a competition within the company where you being free to meet up right away might prove that you are useless and jobless. By this time, I am usually regretting ever wanting to come back to a full time job. If I had to work with these insufferable fools who are intolerable for a few hours, I guess I’d rather just quit working and commit professional suicide if I had to bear them all day long, 6 days a week for years! The prospect itself runs a chill down my spine. 


And oh! The masterstroke that proves the futility of the whole thing is yet to come. The person co-ordinating the whole sham jubilantly walks up to me with tidings of my selection! And pops the much awaited question - When can you join? And as my face unexpectedly falls, I want to hold him by the scruff of his neck and remind him of something called an offer letter that answers the question I want to pop - what will you pay? But then like I said no one really cares for your side of the equation since you are the seeker and employers, the providers. I am so drained out by then and have rejected them as my employers that I mumble something that sounds committed enough to get out of there to my life and freedom! 

I'd like to end by adding a disclaimer that this post is not meant to malign anyone or suggest that people running organisations lack the discipline to do their job. This post is based on subjective experiences and is not a comment on people at large. 

Do you have any interview experiences to share? Tell me in your comments. I'd love to hear from you.